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Smoking 'rots' brain - study

Scientists have warned that smoking can damage the mind as well as the body.

Image: Nomad_Soul via Shutterstock

SMOKING ‘ROTS’ THE brain by damaging memory, learning and reasoning, new research from King’s College London has shown.

More than 8,800 people over the age of 50 were studied as part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (Elsa).

Participants took part in tests of memory, planning, and general mental ability as part of the study – being asked to learn new words or name as many animals they could in a minute. These tests were carried out again after four and eight years.

Smoking was shown to consistently reduce all three factors after four years.

The results, published in the journal Age and Ageing, also showed that high blood pressure and a high risk of stroke were associated with lower scores for memory and mental ability after eight years, while being overweight was linked to poor memory.

One of the researchers, Dr Alex Dregan, said the study had identified a number of risk factors associated with cognitive decline and that people needed to be aware that lifestyle choices could damage both the mind and the body.

The team did not draw conclusions on how the decline identified could impact upon daily life, or whether an early drop in brain functions could lead to dementia.

Dr Simon Ridley from Alzheimer’s Research UK told the BBC that research had repeatedly linked smoking and high blood pressure to a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia. As cognitive decline can develop into dementia, he said, the results of the study underlined “the importance of looking after one’s cardiovascular health from mid-life”.

Read: Brain power begins to decline from age 45 – study>

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